The thought enters Wayne Chrebet's head every time he sees a player leave an NFL game to be examined under the new protective rules on concussions. "I wouldn't have lasted," he said, reflecting on what would have happened if the current guidelines were in place during his 11-year career with the Jets.
It sounded as if he was going to put a time frame on it, such as he wouldn't have lasted a year or a week. Instead, he just said, "I don't know how long I would have lasted if that was the case. I would have been in the locker room every day."
He was not criticizing the safety measures. He does not want any player's family to have to watch their loved one get carried off the field and wonder how the guy would recover. In fact, right after he retired in 2005 after his reported seventh concussion, he said, "I can't put people who care about me through watching something like that again."
But he knows it is a delicate balance between the league and the players, between receivers and defenders, between long careers and long healthy lives.
"You don't want to take the contact out of the game, because that's what people go to see. They want to see the big hits," Chrebet said yesterday at the opening of Jets House, a Super Bowl-related hospitality center at Lugo Caffe on 33rd Street in Manhattan. "But they're trying their best. Concussions are still going to happen. It's just strange to see now, a guy takes a hit and next you know they're walking into the locker room and you don't see them again. It was never like that."
Chrebet, 40, knows that one way to curtail the effects of concussions is to do what the NFL has done, "limiting [the] hitting [of] defenseless players." But, he added, "Now you can't hit guys high, you can't hit them low. It's a tough situation for defensive players right now."
The former wide receiver, a 5-10, 188-pound walk-on from Hofstra who flourished and became one of the most popular players in franchise history, also sympathizes with offensive players and how the concussion protocol affects them. "People's careers are going to be shortened. People aren't going to be playing nearly as long if that's how they're going to keep it," he said.
His presence at the Jets House, though, was meant to be part of a celebration and Chrebet did see much to celebrate, starting with the first Super Bowl in the New York area. "I think it's great. I wish I would have got a chance to play in it," he said.
"What's it going to be, in the mid-20s or 30s? You can prepare for that. You can't prepare for the single-digit, below-zero [temperature]. But once the whistle blows, you kind of get into it, the adrenaline starts flowing. I don't think they'll have a problem."
He is pleased that the Jets will continue to be coached by Rex Ryan. "He's the coach for this city and I think he's the right person who can bring this organization to a championship," Chrebet said, adding he is looking forward to seeing how Geno Smith can do with more offensive weapons.
Mostly, despite having his last three seasons ended by concussions, Chrebet celebrates an unlikely, lively career. "I got 11 years," he said. "I'm standing, I'm walking, I'm talking. I can't complain."